Nine of the top 10 players in the world - save Bubba Watson - are competing in this week's Players Championship. Will one of them take home the Waterford Crystal trophy or will one of the 135 other players in the field take the top prize?
GolfChannel.com senior writers Jason Sobel and Randall Mell weigh in. (Click here for Round 1 tee times)
By RANDALL MELL
I will take a player with holy water, a crucifix and a wooden stake in his bag over a player with an abundance of skill this week.
You don’t need a caddie to unlock the secrets on the TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course. You need a priest or a rabbi or a witch doctor. You need heavenly help or powerful magic.
That’s outrageous hyperbole, but Pete Dye confounds and confuses the best players in the world more than any other architect on the planet. You can’t handicap the field in this championship. You're better off picking a name out of a hat. Form and track records can make little sense this week.
K.J. Choi never finished better than a tie for 16th in nine tries at The Players before winning last year. Tim Clark rode into this week after a missed cut at the Masters and a tie for 63rd at the RBC Heritage and won two years ago. Craig Perks, Stephen Ames and Fred Funk are among the unexpected winners over the last decade.
A top-10 player may win, but it’s a good week to bet against it.
By JASON SOBEL
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – They call this place TPC Sawgrass – or the Stadium Course – but it might as well be given the moniker The Great Equalizer.
The best thing about The Players Championship isn’t the PGA Tour marketing division-driven “fifth major” status or the devious don’t-call-it-an-island peninsula green at the 17th hole. It’s the fact that this venue doesn’t play to the strength of any one type of player. We’ve seen big bombers and short knockers, great ball-strikers and precision putters all find success – and failure – on this course.
The past three editions of this event have seen the eclectic mix of Henrik Stenson, Tim Clark and K.J. Choi win the crystal; though, it’s not like superstars haven’t had their turn atop the final leaderboard, with Fred Couples, Greg Norman, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson among the past champions.
Another A-lister finally comes through again this week. In a season dominated by parity – only Hunter Mahan owns multiple PGA Tour titles so far – it may not make sense to bank on a big-timer, but some of ‘em are playing too well to ignore.
Luke Donald has a nice record on this course; Steve Stricker is a proven candidate; and Phil Mickelson would love to follow up his World Golf Hall of Fame induction with 42nd-career victory. I’ll put my not-very-hard-earned quid on any of ‘em, but the final pick is Rory McIlroy, despite missing the cut in his previous two appearances here and skipping this tournament last year.
This course has been The Great Equalizer more often than not. It’s time for an elite player to win and equal things out once again.